Thursday, December 28, 2017

Return to the Scene of the Toast

The fact the first race of my 2018 running season actually occurs in December of 2017 means nothing to me. I haven't raced since September and what I did then was more trying to survive rather than race. I've been over my disappointments from last year numerous times and I will try not to go too much into that again. It is difficult for me to move on from that and the best way to do that is to just focus on the next race. That race will be the Tuscobia 80 mile.
Last year at Tuscobia I completed the 160 mile version on foot after failing to do so the year before. The experience could be described as near to a religious, spiritual experience as I have ever had. It was frightening, liberating, and perhaps even life changing. I don't think any of this is hyperbole. My perception of myself and life in general has been different since spending those 63 hours and change out in sub zero temperatures, mostly alone. There were periods where deja vu left me very confused yet comforted. I had moments were I felt completely separated from my physical body. I had revelations about what it took to move myself 160 miles across space and time. My whole perception of reality was challenged. It was amazing. I wanted to go back but I decided to do the 80 miles as I am not sure I am ready to experience all these things again just yet.
I felt like maybe I was afraid of trying the 160 again, since that was a word I used when thinking about it. Maybe it is more that I gained respect for it after finishing it in the second attempt. I respect it enough to know that I shouldn't try it at a time when I don't have the will to give the necessary effort to finish again. At some point, however, I will definitely try again.
Since taking a few weeks off after St. Pat's I have been back to regular running. As a bonus I have been very consistent about going to the gym and working on overall and core strength. It has helped me feel much better. The running mileage has slowly built up and doing long runs of 20 miles or more are not miserable struggles that they were over the summer. The training groove is back and I feel good about it.
The days leading up to Tuscobia have been getting colder and colder. It looks like it won't be as cold as last time but it will still be below 0 F for much of the race. I've not worried about it too much. I know the gear I have will get me through these temperatures without an issue. I have experience and confidence on my side. I also know that I only have to get through one night instead of two and into a third. Hopefully I'm not taking it too lightly. It is strange how the perspective has changed.
So this post will be a short one as I still have to pack up my gear. Results and recap next time.

Monday, December 4, 2017

2017: Up and Down


This year began with very high hopes and lofty goals. If you've been following along then you know how it went. I put together an ambitious schedule hoping for the best. There were successes, failures, mistakes, triumphs, huge disappointments and lessons learned. Mostly there were amazing people and unforgettable experiences.

A return to Tuscobia started the year. I had failed to finish there the year before but felt I had learned what it takes to complete the full 160 miles. I somehow did it and had the most intense spiritual (for lack of a better term) experience in the final few miles.

Less than three weeks later I was facing the Arrowhead monster. Much more remote and tougher terrain than Tuscobia, I was more afraid of this race than any other I had done. Again, I finished and somehow in better shape than Tuscobia. I was on a high. I felt like I could do anything.

Actif Epica is where I was finally broken and finished only through sheer will and the support of my fellow Hrimthurs. The trail conditions were difficult and the toll of the two previous races left nothing in the tank.

That tank remained close to empty for the remainder of the year unfortunately. I had the Grand Slam approaching and 4 months to prepare. What I ultimately needed was a break but I tried to get back into training for Western States. The training I did do was inadequate. Physically I felt slow and sluggish. Mentally I had no ability to push myself to even run a 2 or 3 miles at times. This is no way to prepare for a series of 4 premier 100 mile races. My quest for the Grand Slam ended quickly when I missed the cutoff at Western States mile 62 by 5 minutes.

At Vermont I was able to rally a bit and force myself to finish the race though I hated nearly every minute of it. With little motivation I still decided to carry on with the series but missed a cutoff at Leadville and straight up quit at Wasatch.
There was plenty of disappointment about failing at these races. I do regret missing my chance at the Grand Slam, combine that with the Order of Hrimthurs and do something remarkable. However, I realize that it really doesn't matter. My goals only matter to me and most people are focused on their lives. Whether I accomplish some arbitrary goal doesn't affect anyone else's life. I will look for new challenges and maybe someday try all this again. Maybe not. Either way, I think the point of all this is to line up and do the best I can each day, accept the results, and try to learn and appreciate the moments.


It is that time of year in the ultrarunning world when the final few races take place and we all start filling our calendars with events for the next year. The lotteries for Western States and Hardrock are over. After the last two years and the lackluster results of late, I decided to cut back on races next year. Then the silly season comes upon us. I add a race here and another there and boom. I have quite the schedule again. The list of races I want to run one day keeps growing and new ones appear every year. Friends run them, talk about them and then I want to try them. Someone even mentions a race and I am looking up all the info online and suddenly I want to run that one too.
So to cut the crap and get to the list, here it is:

December 29, 2017  Tuscobia 80  Rice Lake, Wisconsin
January 29  Arrowhead 135  International Falls, Minnesota
April 22  Glass City Marathon   Toledo Ohio
May 5  Grayson Highlands 50K  Mouth of Wilson, Virginia
July 6  Ronda Del Cims  Ordino, Andorra
August 10 Bigfoot 200  Mount Saint Helens, Washington
September 28  Yeti 100  Abingdon, Virginia

First, I know Tuscobia is technically this year but it is close enough. I'm "only" doing the 80 mile version this time which which will likely mean less hallucinations. I'm mentally not ready to go the full distance there again. It was brutal last year and I'm afraid of going to that mental/emotional place again so soon.
I was lucky enough to be allowed back to race at Arrowhead again and I'm really looking forward to it. I am going to attempt the unsupported option this year, meaning I get no aid, no entry inside at checkpoints to warm up, and all food and water has to carried. The post race buffet at the casino will be even sweeter.
The Glass City Marathon will by my first road marathon in over 3 years. I've got the crazy idea to try to qualify for Boston now that I have moved to a slightly easier age category. It will still mean going 20 minutes faster than my PR which will require some real running training instead of piling junk miles up.
Grayson Highlands has been quietly sitting on my to do list for some time. I finally have a space in my schedule to fit it in. There are a couple reasons I have want to do it. One, the race director also puts on the Georgia Death Race, which I loved. The most important reason, however, wild mini ponies!!
Grayson Highlands Mini Ponies
photo credit: runbum tours

Ronda del cims? What language is that? Where is it? The language is Catalan and the place is the Principality of Andorra, wedged in in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. It is a 100+ mile race that loops around the entire country and has over 40,000 feet of climbing and just as much descent. It is a Hardrock qualifier and looks amazing from the videos and pictures. I blame Scott from Ten Junk Miles Podcast for this one.

The Bigfoot 200 mile in August is my main goal race of the year. I have become more and more interested in these 200 milers since they popped up a few years ago. Finishing Tuscobia and Arrowhead last year made it seem more attainable. Also, seeing a few running friends do them made me want to join in the fun.

Finally, I was drawn to the Yeti 100 after meeting the RD, Jason, at Leadville and then seeing the design for the sub 24 hour buckle. It is a chance for a fast 100 miler and a perfect way to end the season.
How can you not want this? 

I'm sure there may be a random race or two mixed in there somewhere. I'm still trying to not overdo it. I'm positive I will be back at St. Pat's 24 Hour in October but that is strictly for fun, food and people. It is all approching very quickly and I look forward to seeing how it all turns out. I'd love to hear what you all are doing!